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Hypocrisy runs amuck                                                                                     Print this essay

Posted at: Oct/01/2013 : Posted by: mel

Related Category: Perspectives, Politics & Gov, Watching America,

Have your looked up the definition for hypocrisy recently, there are two standard definitions. 1, “a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious belief or principles that one does not really possess.” 2, “a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude.” (Reference: dictionary.com). The common word in both definitions was “pretense.” Despite being proud of my country, I am currently very frustrated by the hypocrisy of my government and its venerated institutions.

Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens have a voice and participate equally, either directly or through elected representatives. In contrast, an oligarchy is where power is held by a small number of individuals.

For much of my lifetime, American foreign policy has been dominated by the marketing of democracy. I am sure that energy, natural resources and security have driven many of our foreign policy decisions. Nevertheless, when prognosticating the best form of governance to an ally or potential ally, we have always pronounced the values of a constitutional democracy.

In many parts of the world American diplomats devote significant energy to the challenges of a country and its government that is ruled or dominated by a very small circle of individuals. The failing that we tout so loudly in these countries is the narrow focus and intolerance of their governing leadership. Intolerance is a key word as we look at governments where the ruling elite show little willingness for the government to create policies that protect or tolerate those individuals who are specifically different from themselves. Sometimes the intolerance is about race, sometimes it is about religion and sometimes it is about political philosophy or expectations.

America likes to brag throughout its history of its intolerance for those who show intolerant behavior towards others. Fundamentally, zealots are not appreciated or welcome. For a long time our Congress has been a noted example touting the value of tolerance and diplomacy. Our senators and representatives would go to Washington with the agenda of their constituents in their hip pocket and fight hard for that agenda. When the days got long and the hours late, a negotiated compromise was always the order of the day.

These compromises often frustrate the constituents back home, but they represented the difference between something getting done and nothing getting done. Those who were masters at creating these compromises were referred as “statesmen” for their ability to rise above the fray of day-to-day politics and individual agenda in favor of the bigger picture.

Clearly, American political history is not a perfect example of compromise over local or individual agenda. There are noted examples throughout our history where a compromise could not be found or the system simply broke down. The Civil War and post war Reconstruction are clearly examples where a failure to compromise or narrow-minded thinking dominated. Despite these periodic failures, American governance has mostly been about setting aside personal or narrow-minded agenda in favor of the big picture. Contending with zealots in government was something that came about when Congressional committees and hearings looked at the challenges of dealing with other countries.

As someone who is in a religious minority, I have grown up understanding the importance of tolerance and acceptance in America. Being different, yet being accepted as a contributing member of American society is something I take pride in. I don’t go around bragging about my difference, but I don’t have to sew a yellow star on my jacket either. Over the past decade my household has hosted long term high school foreign exchange students from many corners of the world including those that are “less tolerant of being different.” These young people have become fascinated with the notion that they could openly in class say derogatory things about public figures or policy without being arrested later. There are a lot of special things going on in America, but when we start letting narrow minded zealots rule the day, those things that make America great begin to breakdown.

I am not naïve. I know that just like our judicial system, our legislative system provides everyone with a voice. There is a contemporary expression; “my way or the highway.” When elected representatives or the President uses this same type of voice, the system is broken and everyone loses.

The real source for this crack in the foundation is most likely money. Politics is all about money these days. A handful of big dollar political donors can have a much greater influence on a politician’s agenda than thousands of small donors and constituents. If the donors have a narrow agenda, so too will the politician(s) they are funding.

As a parent I have many years experience dealing with the occasional tantrum, if the child did not like something they would dig their heals in and start bawling. As parents we teach, or should be teaching our children that they will not always get their way in life. Just because you don’t get your way does not mean you get to stop traffic.

In the private sector, if the board is tasked with developing a budget and a corporate agenda, failure to do so would cost all of them their jobs. While public governance is not the same thing as private employment, the people involved are still ultimately being paid to get something done. Maybe it is time for a national recall election of everyone in Congress? If they don’t want to do the work we elected them for, why keep them in place. I shouldn’t exclusively harangue Congress; Early on in our President’s administration when asked why he wouldn’t negotiate with Congress he replied “I won.” In reality that notion of a national recall on a large scale is far too idealistic since private money would still have way too much influence on who the candidates are and what they represent.

In the end, I keep coming back to the frustration I have with the hypocrisy of our political system. As Americans, we tread all over the globe yelling loudly about the value of democracy and the ills of narrow-mindedness and zealots. Yet, here we are with a broken legislative system in which the voices of a few small minds that are not willing to look at real compromise stymie everything. Clearly, this is not the same thing as when Mr. Smith went to Washington.

As a child, after a tantrum like this, the next step would have been for my father to paddle my behind so I had something honest to cry about….but times have change and paddling is apparently lost to history along with compromise and openmindedness.

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Charles Baudelaire
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